101 Seminars

What is History 101?

The History 101 seminar is designed to guide you through the capstone experience of your undergraduate education as a history major: the researching and writing of your senior thesis. Successful completion of this challenging but rewarding endeavor requires you to do the work of a historian. Ultimately, this translates to producing a piece of scholarship—in this case a 30-50 page final paper—in which you articulate and defend a historical interpretation/argument rooted in extensive primary source research, informed by thorough secondary source reading.

Preparation Guidelines for History 101

  1. Identify/describe a topic you would like to investigate for your 101 (thesis). Your topic should be narrowly focused, something that you can examine thoroughly, rather than superficially. As a general rule, it is always better to cast your research net deep instead of wide, to cover less in order to uncover more. Your initial topic description should be informed by a preliminary investigation into both primary and secondary sources (see #3 and #4 below) in order to demonstrate how they address and inform the topic you've chosen. This will help establish your topic's feasibility and viability for your thesis. In other words for #1 to mean anything, you'll need to be sure to do #3 and #4.

  2. Spell out a question (or two or three) about your chosen topic that you would like to answer in your your thesis. Your question(s) must be evaluative, i.e., of the "how" / "why" variety, and not normative, i.e., of the "should" or "ought" variety. Evaluative questions require you to take and defend a position, to advance a thesis claim (i.e., interpretation / argument), in response to them.

  3. Conduct the research necessary to (a) identify a primary source base or primary source bases and then (b) begin conducting preliminary research into those primary sources. Ultimately, your final paper will depend on having a rich array of primary sources available to address the research question(s) you pose (#2) for your topic (#1). Many good research questions simply cannot be answered because they lack primary sources. Consequently, it's essential that you choose a research topic and question(s) that has a wealth of available and accessible primary sources. Ultimately, the strength of your thesis will be a function of the persuasiveness/forcefulness of the thesis claim you advance in your final 101 in light of the narrowly-focused thoroughness of the predominantly primary evidence you marshal to support your thesis claim.

  4. Familiarize yourself with some of the historiography (secondary) sources about your chosen topic, including the interpretations they advance and primary sources they employ.

Fall 2018 Seminar Descriptions

For course locations and times, please refer to the Berkeley Academic Guide.

101.001: Writer's Group & Early Modern European Topics


Instructor: Peter Sahlins

Units: 5

Class Number: 21640


This section is designed for seniors with well-conceived thesis projects that do not fit within the rubrics of other 101 seminars. Members of the group will observe a common schedule in developing, drafting, and critiquing material but will not share a common subject area.

Admission requires a written statement and the consent of the instructor. The statement should include:

  1. A 250 word description of the proposed thesis topic including preliminary research questions;
  2. A preliminary annotated bibliography (with full citations) of suitable primary sources;
  3. A short (half page) bibliography of secondary sources;
  4. A list of previous coursework in the proposed field of research;
  5. And the name of a departmental instructor in that field who is willing to help mentor the student by providing bibliographical guidance, occasional consultation, and a critique of the first draft of the thesis.

Students apply online by submitting the online preference form, and must also submit their statements directly to Professor Sahlins via email to sahlins@berkeley.edu beginning Wednesday August 1 and no later than Wednesday August 15.

Although most applicants will not have had time to develop rigorous statements by the application deadline, they must demonstrate the viability of their projects and their commitment to serious preparation in advance of the course. This section is limited to students whose work clearly falls outside the scope of other 101 sections. If in doubt, please apply.

101.002: United States Topics


Instructor: Mark Brilliant

Units: 5

Class Number: 25937


This course will serve to guide students through the capstone experience of their undergraduate history education: the researching and writing of the senior thesis. Successful completion of this challenging, but rewarding, undertaking requires students to do the work of an historian. Ultimately, this translates to producing a piece of scholarship — in this case a 30-40 page final paper — in which students articulate and defend a historical interpretation/argument rooted in extensive primary source research and informed by thorough secondary source reading.

101.003: European Topics


Instructor: Joseph Kellner

Units: 5

Class Number: 25938


Any topics in European history are welcome. We will meet several times at the beginning of the semester to discuss possible topics, bibliographies, and research strategies, and then again at the end to discuss paper drafts. The rest of the time I will be meeting with students individually.